Letters to the Editor

Best Of


In response to “Big Heroes, Little Gods” from the Escapist Forum: I’ve played CoX on and off over the years its been out, and the release of the mission architect brought me back for a month or so. The thing that drove me away again is that there had been no changes to the overworld environment.

I’m sorry to say it, but CoX has great gameplay, a compelling story, but its world is so dead. Its as if every fiber of the digital world screams out at you as you run down the streets “Hey look at me! I’m fake building facades!” And do you want to know why it feels so dead? There’s no bloody music, and the music they do have cuts off after a minute or so in the zone. After that you get to listen to the ambiance noises of cars honking and the wind whistling past your ears.

Music helps to liven up the grind, and don’t deny that CoX after level 16 turns into a very ugly grind fest (unless they’ve modified the curve since my last visit). All I ask for is an audio option to loop the music, and I don’t think they understand how much that would improve and give life to the world they’ve created.

If they’ve added that option in recent months I might be inclined to check it out again.


I find it interesting how the CoX MA works. From what I’ve seen it’s quite impressive, and it seems to be a lot easier that other game creators. If you’re not sure exactly what I’m talking about, check out the Left 4 Dead authoring tools, the G.E.C.K. for Fallout 3, or the Neverwinter Nights toolset. Making stories has never been easier to share, as most of the heavy lifting has already been done. Then again, the Little Big Planet tools are pretty easy to build with, but doing something great with them takes more effort.

With more powerful tools you get more freedom to do what you want, but with great power comes, well a lot more work on your end to get everything to mesh together.



In response to “In Defense of the Friend Code” from the Escapist Forum: It is an interesting take on a system I’ve not tried. I can see the charm in what you’re saying, having actively looked for the people you will play with. Having said that I’m glad I don’t have to.

It’s easier on PC. Hanging out on the same server means that you naturally keep bumping into the same people. I did this on Action Quake in the late 90’s. There were no mics and it was 56k which seriously limited the servers you could get a good game on. Playing AQ you had to wait to respawn next round with all of the other losers so you’d chat with messages between rounds. This built up my “Friends list”. I normally knew my team mates and opponents.

It was frustrating when my server local was full though.

Now I play on XBL. Yes your friends list can quickly fill with strangers but I have learnt and tend to have regular culls of people I’ve not spoken to in a week or so. There is a hard groups of around 10 I play MW2 with whenever they’re on. There is a smaller group I play Endwar with as well. I know where they live, who their families are, what they do for a living, their real names and what they are interested in. I much prefer this to a friends list of hundreds I know nothing about.

I’m just glad we didn’t have to dig out and exchange 12 digit codes.

bjj hero

While I see his point, I still don’t think any of the good points he mentioned truly excuse how f*cking annoying friend codes are. It’s a well written and well thought out article, and yet defending the undefendable is a pointless task.



In response to “Ghosts in the Machine” from the Escapist Forum: I think the paradox of “constantly communicating, never connecting” is a fascinating one, and this game’s unique quasi-multiplayer setup does seem like it offers an interesting way of viewing that. Good insights, well written.


Well, before I thought that Demon’s Souls might be interesting to try out, but now…you’ve gone and got me both intrigued and terrified of what the experience would do to me. Especially with the sleep paralysis comparison – I get that way too often and it completely freaks me out every single time (especially when I’ve just dreamed that I’d woken up in bed, only to later wake up [or not] another time, something which also happens to me far too often). I’ll have to make sure to have some friends around to keep me from losing it if I ever give it a go…



In response to “Ditching the V-Word” from the Escapist Forum:

Ray Kurzweil:
“Artificial intelligence” is real intelligence.

Ray Kurzweil lost my attention when he said this. He was probably just ranting and brought up a not-quite-a-tangent, but it sounds like he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Anyhow, “virtual” as used today, at least in a professional context, still holds a great deal of meaning. In all computer-related context as well as others you quoted right up until “virtual reality” it serves to mean as the distinction between the logical and the physical, or the method in which they are separated; a bridge of sorts between what we us and the way we organize our thoughts and the world around us. “Virtual space” is not physical space, it is an abstraction thereof, a representation of what we see and perceive, itself seen (and represented physically) differently by different people – virtual. Which agrees with Deleuze, by the way.

A lot of the problems brought forth by this article is that “virtual” has also come to mean, in common parlance, effects that take place through and of such realms. A “virtual romance” is not indeed “virtual” but is of or through “virtual space”.

However, I will concede that some uses are a bit out of hand, such as “virtual colonoscopy” which only describes taking an image through non-traditional means. Such things are probably just a means by which to distinguish techniques or from a legacy meaning. In the case of colonoscopy, probably to separate the non-invasiveness of the new technique from the infamous “hands-on” traditional technique.

In any event, it is not uncommon for words to balloon in meaning up until they fall in disuse, usually when one or more new and popular words take up the meanings. Such is the organic nature of language.


Eh, it’s just a word. Wouldn’t your average American from 60 years ago be able to walk home and tell his mom he was very gay because he had found a job?

Plus, it is a virtual world. If Kwolds Golddagger, Golden Barbarian ceases to exist, John Truman, Expert Accountant will continue to exist. If John Truman ceases to exist, so does Kwolds Golddagger. One might probably think about ‘virtual friendships’ and how such as real, but odds are that if someone is really your friend you’d end up having other ways to contact him, which makes it less virtual (even if through a virtual medium, as one of the fellows above me said). If your best pal is Kwolds Golddagger, and suddenly you need help for your mom’s surgery, either he will reveal himself to be John Truman to help or suddenly stop contacting you.

There might be something about ‘virtual economy’, and how you are spending real money on fake things, but then again the money you are spending are bits and bytes on a bank’s website that have now gone to the company’s bank’s website. Even though we spend money as real, most of it is really virtual, based on the promise that the government and banks will pay up if we need it, even though they don’t actually have that many money. It works the same as real money – but a few years ago there was a rumour that the Argeninian peso would suddenly become devalued, so thousands of people rushed to trade their pesos in for dollars, and the government and banks didn’t have enough dollars to pay and it all ended up throwing the country into a recession. So you have the money, you can use the money to buy stuff, but if you try to take all the money out it’s not really there. It’s real, but not quite.

I had an idea for a book that started with a violent war scenario. Then at the end the main character would say he’d need to log off and disappear. The next chapter would show him working at a drab desk job. At the end of it, he’d say he’d log off and disappear. The war scenario was a game inside a massive, worldwide simulation; even though they’re both as ‘real’, the job he works in is what pays his salary, while the war scenario had no long-term consequences. Now that would make me wonder.

The Random One

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